On December 28th, Iranian Vice president Mohammed Reza Rahimi threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz should the West apply sanctions against Iran’s oil exports, saying that “If sanctions are adopted against Iranian oil, not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz.” On January 9th, 2012, Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi contradicted Rahimi’s threat. Key quotes from Persian-
نگفتیم تنگه هرمز را میبندیم… جمهوری اسلامی ایران مهمترین تامین كننده امنیت در تنگه هرمز است…اگر كسی بخواهد امنیت خلیج فارس را به خطر اندازد، در آن صورت امنیت آن برای همه به خطر میافتد
“We did not say that we would close the Strait of Hormuz…the Islamic Republic of Iran is the most important provider of security in the strait…if one threatens the security of the Persian Gulf, then all are threatened.”
Nearly 35% of daily traded oil passes through the Strait. Importantly, all of Iran’s exports are shipped through the Strait. During the Iran-Iraq War, when Iran was locked in a brutal stalemate, Iranian authorities made repeated threats to close the strait; the United States called their bluff, and even in that dire situation they never followed through.
This might be mere gamesmanship on the part of the Iranian government, in an attempt to cause jitters in the oil market. On the other hand, it may be a sign of deeper dysfunction within the Iranian government. As a result of international pressure confidence in Iranian currency is collapsing, and the Iranian government does not appear to have an effective response to their economic woes. Although Iranian public opinion is hard to gauge, it is difficult to imagine that the Iranian people are pleased with such a toxic economic environment, and unrest is increasingly likely. The Iranian authorities may be hoping that braggadocio rhetoric can distract from the situation.
About MeNews producer. Blogger on politics and culture of the Middle East, specializing in issues of public diplomacy.
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